Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Preparing for Dallas

Schatzi and I have been getting in our 3-Day training walks each and every morning...we usually walk somewhere between 5 and 6 miles...and today she had her first 6+ mile walk. I have been trying to take a photo a day while we are on the trail, so I have a little album of all our training. Yesterday we decided to take a new trail path and came upon fields of wildflowers - it was absolutely beautiful in the early morning sunshine. I managed to get a few photos and thought I would share them here...and I captured the squirrel photo in the afternoon while we were at the park playing fetch...you know I can't resist a good squirrel photo opportunity! All this time outside is really sparking my creativity....








I am keeping extremely busy in my studio, working on commissioned designing and quilting projects - my sewing machine has been humming a long for a couple weeks - it is a such blessing to have the work. Plus, I have a HUGE pile of needlework finishing to get completed for a customer - I can't wait to get started - hopefully I will be able to share some of these finishes with you, as well - the stitching is gorgeous. Also - my Komen 3-Day needlework design is almost finished - I am hoping to share it with you next week (fingers crossed) - yep, I have been stitching every night...

So, for now, I am off to take Schatzi to run at the park...cook dinner (I'm thinking BLTs this evening)...and then get in my daily stitching time...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Drunkard's Path Projects

I have been at my sewing machine all week - my favorite place to be! I had a large commissioned order that consisted of a pair of placemats, a pillow, a table runner, a large applique wall hanging, and a bed quilt - and although I had a terrible (TERRIBLE) migraine for several days, I managed to get them all complete...along with several stitching wallet special orders, a couple birthday gifts, and a drunkard's path pillow cover. It's been a busy week; however, busy is truly a blessing. This weekend will be full as well, as I have another wall hanging, a pair of wool applique pincushions, and a couple more birthday gifts to complete.

I have been wanting to make a drunkard's path pillow for quite a while and I finally carved out some time for it....and although it may look a little bit tricky with all the curved piecing, it was actually a breeze and I completed the entire thing in just a few hours. I used a new AccuQuilt GO! die...it is the Drunkard's Path-4" Finished Die...each small two piece set is a 4" square and four sets create one 8" block. I was quite excited to use this new die, which is one of the new exclusive dies for Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. I made four 8" blocks for my 16" pillow cover and played around with the pattern, until I found one that was unique and eye-pleasing to me. I used the Tuxedo Collection by Doodlebug Design Inc. for Riley Blake. The die cut shapes made this a quick and easy project - and matching up the notches helps make perfect curved piecing easily obtainable. My tip to make a project like this - press and starch your fabrics before beginning - it will give you smooth clean cuts and make your fabric much easier to work with...




 I was actually able to try out this test die months ago to make the GO! Retro Drunkard's Path Quilt sample quilt (this is the free pattern that accompanies the die) - I just had to wait until the die was actually released to share the project with you. This quilt alternates between drunkard's path blocks and broken dishes blocks...and it measures 68" x 76" (a nice large size - but a little bit of a challenge when quilting on my sewing machine - yep, I'm still dreaming that one day I will have a longarm machine...). It is made from an assortment of fabrics from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores...and actually was quite fun to make. I was thrilled to see my sample quilt on the packaging for the die and in the online video...again, another quilt I made is famous....and this was a big project, with lots of curved seams and matching points...I am proud!





I hope you enjoyed reading about my drunkard's path projects...and I have several more fun and famous quilting finishes to share with you in the near future...

Wishing you a wonderful and creative weekend!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bright and Cheerful Sampler Quilt

I told you I would be back this week to start sharing some of the sewing/quilting projects I have been working on...and today I am excited to share a very fun sampler quilt project I recently completed for AccuQuilt. This fun sampler block quilt is made entirely with one cutting die...the GO! Value Die. The GO! Value Die includes two 2 1/2"W x 2 1/2"W triangles, one 2 1/2"W x 2 1/2"W square, and one 4 1/2"W x 4 1/2"H square, which together, can create a wide variety of blocks and borders....in fact, you would be surprised how many projects you can make with just this one die. The GO! Value Die actually comes in the GO! Fabric Cutter Starter Set, along with the GO! Fabric Cutter, a 6" x 12" cutting mat, a die pick, and a 20-page pattern booklet which includes 12 block patterns and a sampler quilt pattern (the quilt I am sharing with you today).

So, let's talk about the sampler quilt - it is 12 different blocks, each measuring 8" x 8"...and with the borders the quilt measures 48" x 48". The entire quilt top is pieced with shapes from the GO! Value Die (yep, that's it, just one single cutting die)...and the binding was cut using the GO! Strip Cutter-2 1/2". These two dies are compatible with the GO! and the GO! Baby Fabric Cutter (and with the Studio Fabric Cutter, if you use the GO! Die Adapters).


This quilt was REALLY fun to make - and is a good starter quilt. You can do one block each day, each week, or even each month...and before you know it you will have the top complete. It is also a great practice quilt if you want to work on your "point skills"...and with the precise cutting, you will be surprised how well your points match up! ...and, of course, you could use your favorite colors and fabrics to make it extra special!



If you are interested in the AccuQuilt booklet that contains all twelve block patterns (with alternate uses) and the GO! Die Sampler Quilt, you can find it as part of the GO! Fabric Cutter Starter Set. You can hear all about the this Starter Set and the sampler quilt by watching this video...and yes, the quilt hanging in the background is the one I made (it's famous!)...


I will be back soon with more of my recent projects...until then, happy creating!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

An Iowa Summer...

Hello friends - I sure have missed you (and from the photo on the right, my dogs aren't getting enough attention either...this is what is waiting for me when I come down the stairs from my studio). It has been a couple hectic weeks...and although I have a TON of creative things to share with you, it has been hard to make the time to sit down and blog. Troubleshooting with the new website has been a huge time investment...and now, I am waiting for the latest cart software update, hoping that will fix some of the connection issues that some of you are experiencing. I have around forty handmade items to add, but I was hoping the site would be working properly for everyone before I take the time to list everything. Thank you for your patience while I sort everything out - and for those of you who have been able to view and explore the new website, thank you for your very kind compliments and orders. I have also been keeping busy with some special design projects and commissioned sewing/quilting work - unfortunately, needlework just doesn't pay the bills these days, so I have been forced to sit it on the back burner and focus on projects that can supplement my income....it has been quite the balancing act, but when you are passionate about your career, you find a way to keep your dream alive. I am also getting in my training walks for the Komen 3-Day in November...and yes, I am still stitching on the model for my 2014 fundraising design....it is about 75-80% finished, so you will see it soon - I really wanted to have it completed by now, but life has had other plans....

So I thought I would share a few photos I have taken over the last several weeks - a little "catch-up"...and then later this week, I will share some of my latest sewing/quilting creations with you (I have a bunch!)....

Raccoon River Park - this is where I do a lot of walking with Schatzi - it is
3 miles to walk around the lake...

On the Nature Walk at Raccoon River Park

Travis giving Schatzi a swimming lesson at Raccoon River Park...

I took a little road trip with my friend Lorrie to Pella, Iowa, where we visited
the quilt shop and the bakery.

Fishing with friends on the 4th of July...yep, that is my fishing pole (and yes, I
have a fishing pole).

Here is one of the 8 fish I caught - obviously, I threw them all back...

Friends around the fire pit on the 4th of July...(their house overlooks the pond we
were fishing on)...

Toasting marshmallows for s'mores....

The first s'more I have made/had since I was a kid...I made my husband hold it
for a photo...and yes, it was delicious...

Iowa sunset on Independence Day

A Tiger Swallowtail butterfly I spotted on an early morning training walk...

Another quiet, early morning on the trail with Schatzi - this was taken on one of
the bridges - it is my favorite bench in a small clearing...we have a lovely trail system
close to our home...

A current photo of Miss E Schatzi Nace Wir Vertrauen CGC - she is now 82 pounds.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Love Today

Do you think someone was trying to tell me something this morning?? - Schatzi and I came upon this sidewalk chalk art on our early morning walk...and I just had to snap an Instagram photo. So, while my days are extremely challenging right now, I am going to try to "love today!!"...

Before I get into something fun and creative, I want to give you just a wee bit of a website update. Some of you are still having intermittent speed and connection issues when trying to visit http://blueribbondesigns.com - and I am still working with my web host and cart software provider to fix these issues. We are working on a couple different things, hoping one of them will solve the problem. I would like to thank everyone for being patient - I understand your frustration...and believe me, I am BEYOND frustrated, as well. I would also like to thank those of you who have been able to access the website for your kind messages and your orders...your supportive notes have kept me sane and make the nastygrams I have received somewhat less hurtful - I am truly thankful for you. I am doing my best to get the problem solved and can only hope things will be back to normal soon. Fingers crossed...

On to something happy and cross stitch related...

The most wonderful package arrived on my doorstep from the UK yesterday, and it could not have come on a better day...it truly lifted my spirits! Inside this package was a lovely gift bag with two beautifully wrapped presents. I opened the smallest present first, which was a GORGEOUS yard of some of the most spectacular ribbon I have even seen and an exquisite handmade button - both from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London - I just can't wait to find the perfect project to use these unique embellishments! If that wasn't enough, in the larger package was a bright and cheerful cross stitched friendship pillow and matching tag...aren't they special?! This handmade gift truly touched my heart and brought an immediately smile to my face after a day filled with frustration and negativity - it honestly made me speechless. Thank you so much Dora - I will treasures these gifts - and I treasure our faraway friendship - you make me happy!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Website Hiccups...

I am aware that some of you are experiencing difficulty and frustration with the new website - while some of you are able to visit and explore easily, others cannot get the site to load or receive an error message. Please know I am addressing the intermittent speed and connection issues and I'm working with my web host and software provider on a solution. Thank you so very much for your patience, I hope to have everything running smoothly as soon as possible. Computers are a marvelous thing most of the time; however, I have quickly learned they can also cause migraine headaches - and truth be told, this entire website project is making me feel like an epic failure. Please bear with me while I work out this latest "challenge" and I hope to be back soon, letting you know all is well...cross your fingers and/or say a little prayer for me - I could use some good vibes and a little positivity today!

....and just so this post has a happy, creative twist, here is a new update on my 2014 Komen "pink" design...and yes, I am still trying to come up with the perfect title...

Monday, June 30, 2014

Stitch Starter Ruler & Sleeves

Hello friends! It has been another busy week....and today will be filled with adding new handmade items to my freshly updated website. Over the last few days, I managed to turn these piles:


Into these finished piles of Stitch Starter Ruler Sleeves:


These pocket sleeves measure 3.5" x 3.5" and hold my BRD 3" Stitch Starter Ruler perfectly - they are fully lined with no raw seams...and they use fusible fleece to give them a bit of padding and stability. I will be listing all 36 new Stitch Starter Ruler Sleeves (four each of nine different fabrics) in the Exclusives/One-of-a-Kind Handmade section on my website...and each ruler pocket sleeve purchase includes a Stitch Starter Ruler.


For those of you unfamiliar with my BRD Stitch Starter Ruler:
  • It is 2 mil acrylic plastic, making it durable.
  • It has marking lines for 1", 2", and 3" seam allowances, so you only need one tool.
  • It is clear, making it easy to see your fabric placement.
  • It has 1/4" and 1/2" markings on three sides.
  • It has complete 3" ruler markings down the left side - these can be used for: finishing work measurements, measuring between stitched designs, and counting threads to figure fabric count.
  • Visit this PDF link for more information: Directions for using the Stitch Starter Ruler
A Stitch Starter Ruler is also included in the following Blue Ribbon Designs with charting and instructions to make your own cross stitch sleeves: BRD-100 "Holiday Helpings" and BRD-097 "Blessed Beyond Measure" - these two design charts can be purchased on my website or at your favorite needlework shop.




I am off to take photos of each Stitch Starter Ruler Sleeve (it's terribly gloomy and raining, so I am going to have to work on the lighting)...then I will start posting them on the website (along with a few other new items)...it's going to be a busy day!

Monday, June 23, 2014

You Never Stop Growing...

Several months ago, my Blue Ribbon Designs website celebrated ten years in existence...seriously, ten years...and in the needlework industry, that is really saying something. Things sure have changed during the past ten years - it has been a decade filled with rewards, stitching friendships, personal accomplishments, and new creative endeavors...along with challenges, hiccups, and downfalls. Recently, we have all watched the economy and copyright infringements truly damage the needlework community...and although needlework has been my livelihood and full time job for over ten years, in the last twelve months, I have found it almost impossible to make ends meet - I have even been seriously contemplating going back to the corporate world. I have revamped my business plan a million times - tried different avenues - looked at more cost-effective solutions - and have even studied new ways to deliver my products. I'm just not ready to say goodbye to a business that has brought me so much joy and fulfillment...and allowed me to be creative on a daily basis for over ten years. So, with changing and challenging times, it's time to make some adjustments. The first is a newly updated website at blueribbondesigns.com with improved features and a shopping cart....yep, you will be able to order my designs, along with my handmade items directly from my website.



First, you must know: I have always and will always support needlework shops...and although consumers will now be able to purchase Blue Ribbon Designs charts/patterns from me directly, they will still need to purchase all the needed supplies and materials from the needlework shop/supplier of their choice. I will still be doing business with needlework shops and distributors - and your favorite shops will still carry and be able to order Blue Ribbon Designs. With well over 100 designs in the BRD catalog, it is impossible for shops and distributors to have stock of each and every design - this new shopping option just gives needleworkers a chance to purchase those designs that their local shop doesn't stock or want to order. It will also help my international fans obtain my designs with less hassle.

Another perk of the updated website - all my handmade items that have been found in my Etsy shop will now be listed along with my charts - so you can do all your Blue Ribbon Designs shopping in one place. I will also be adding some original sewing and quilting patterns too...



This updated website has definitely been a learning experience - with my limited budget, I was unable to pay someone thousands of dollars to build the site, so I have been building it on my own for several months. It has been a very time consuming project...and I have spent hours upon hours adding products and doing testing. I now have an SSL certificate in place, insuring your orders and purchasing information are safe and secure (you will see "https" and a lock in your browser address line). There have been a few glitches along with way - mostly cosmetic and making the website have my personality...and I am sure now that the site is live, other small errors will be found (it is just not feasible for me to test every device and every browser in every scenario).

The site is now also "mobile" - so those of you wanting to use your smartphone will be able to place secure orders through the mobile site. I will tell you, if you choose the option "view full desktop site" from your mobile device, it will not be as pretty, but it will still be functional. The entire site is best viewed from a desktop, laptop, or tablet with the most current browsers and operating systems. Another note - if you have visited my website recently, you may have to F5 refresh to see the new website.

Payment can be made with all major credit cards and PayPal...and there is a "Contact Us" page for those that need to request other arrangements - I will do my very best to accommodate you. I ship internationally...and you have options for shipping (USPS First Class, USPS Parcel, USPS Priority Mail, or UPS)...and as many of you know, I ship promptly.

I hope you find the newly updated website easy to maneuver...and I hope you like the updated features. If you notice anything strange, any misspellings, or something just doesn't look right or add up properly, please feel free to send me a (kind) message...I would love to hear your feedback and would appreciate constructive criticism or corrections (written in a nice manner). I should also mention - I am working on coding to have several of the header and footer menu items open in a new window (items such as News, Blog, and Facebook) - this will be more convenient and keep you from having to hit your "back" arrow...so, rest assured, I am still working on a few adjustments/improvements to make viewing even better! It's a work in progress...

I am extremely passionate about the needlework industry and I would love to continue to bring you the original designs you have come to know and love....so with all that being said, it is back to work (finally) on some new designs and handmade items - I am ready to get back into the swing of things. Thank you all for your love, support, and patience while I took on this HUGE project.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Video Class DVD...and a Giveaway!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Georgia H. - she is the recipient of the DVD giveaway - I have already e-mailed Georgia with the details. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment and enter...and thank you to the Rafflecopter widget for organizing the entries and randomly choosing a winner. If you didn't win this time, please don't be discouraged - there will be more giveaway opportunities in the future...

In mid-May, I announced my new online video class "Learn Counted Cross Stitch" was live and ready for viewing...well, today I have more exciting news the DVD is now available. That's right, my special video project with Annie's is now available both as an online video class and on DVD....and today I have a copy of the DVD to give away (keep reading for details)!!

This is definitely not your average "shot in a basement" video - this class was professionally filmed in Annie's studio with top notch production, high quality cameras, and a full set. There are 13 segments in the video and I start with the very basics; we start out discussing materials, supplies, and tools - then we talk about how to read a Cross Stitch chart, how to prepare your supplies, and how to take your first stitches. We cover how to work Cross Stitches (two different methods), Back Stitches, Partial Cross Stitches, and French Knots....and each technique segment has an exclusive Blue Ribbon Designs project....plus I talk about finishing touches and finishing ideas. This video class is perfect for a beginner, as well as a seasoned needleworker that wants to brush up on their skills and knowledge. The video length is one hour and 53 minutes and the DVD video class (just like the online class) includes five exclusive printable class projects, instructions, materials lists, and diagrams (DVDs are compatible with North American DVD players, and PC and Macintosh computer systems).

Photo collage featuring the five exclusive projects....








You can see a Class Overview and the Introduction video for free by visiting: http://www.anniescatalog.com/onlineclasses/detail.html?code=NCV22 and clicking on the links in the "Lesson Description" box (lower right corner).

You can find the online video class here:
http://www.anniescatalog.com/onlineclasses/detail.html?code=NCV22

...and the DVD can be found at specialty needlework shops and here:
http://www.anniescatalog.com/detail.html?code=NCV22D

Now the FUN begins! I have one video class DVD to giveaway to a lucky reader...here are the important details:
Followers (current and new) are eligible - after you tell me how you follow, you will have three more entry opportunities (entries will be verified). One winner will be chosen randomly and will receive a copy of the DVD "Learn Counted Cross Stitch". International entries are welcome. You must use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter - no e-mail entries will be accepted. The giveaway is open until 11:59 PM CST Sunday, June 22, 2014 and the recipient will be announced on Monday, June 23, 2014. No prize substitutions. Good luck...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Catching My Breath...

Yes, I am still alive and breathing...and yes, I am okay. I apologize for taking so long between posts, but it has been a little hectic here to say the least. Thank you to everyone who sent me a message to check on me - I know it has been longer than usual since my last post...life just got in the way...but we'll catch-up quickly in this post, and then things should start to get back to normal.

Where to start...well, my husband was just out of town for a week plus on a fishing trip with his buddies in Canada, so that left me trying to balance the household, dogs, yard work, and my business, all on my own...I pretty much was on auto-pilot for the entire time he was gone - trying to cram everything I needed to do into each day. Here some photos taken on his trip to Gold Arrow Camp in Perrault Falls, Ontario, Canada...






Several of you have asked about my walking - yep, I have been walking/training daily. Schatzi and I walk/run 4-5 miles every morning, rain or shine...Simba gets two walks a day...and Schatzi gets a couple trips to the park during the day and usually a good walk in the evening...so yes, I manage to get in an average of eight plus miles a day. Schatzi is a good training partner...and I must mention she got her first title last night - she tested for her AKC CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and passed with flying colors!



Schatzi getting her AKC paperwork after she passed her CGC test...

Next up - the updated Blue Ribbon Designs website...yes, I have it all built...and yes, my SSL Certificate is now in place...and yes, it will be live VERY soon. I am doing some last minute testing and I am hoping to have that done today. A little hint (and reason why it has taken so long) - the updated site has a shopping cart and you will be able to shop BRD charts and BRD Etsy items all in one place....but a little note: I still support needlework shops 100% - my shop will only sell  my charts and handmade items - you will still need to visit your favorite needlework retailer to buy your supplies....more on all of this in the very near future...and the delayed BRD newsletter will be sent as soon as the new website is up and running.


...and yes, I am still sewing and quilting...I just finished up four large projects for AccuQuilt (sorry can't share them just yet)...and I am in the midst of putting together a pile of stitching wallets (12) and stitch starter ruler sleeves (36)...

Let's finish up on a happy note! In March, I entered the National Craft Month giveaway on the Therm O Web blog (a favorite blog of mine - they always have creative ideas and tutorials!)...they were giving away an Oliso TG-1100 Iron. We all know I love my Oliso irons and I am on my second one...well, to my complete surprise I won the giveaway (with over 1,000 entries)! However, as of last week, I had not received my prize...and after two months, I had completely given up hope. Well, thanks to Thermo O Web and Oliso, my new iron arrived this week - and to add to my excitement, it was a TG1600, just like the one I already own and LOVE. I am so excited - I now have a wonderful iron at my cutting table ironing board and an iron at my sewing machine ironing board - so convenient - no more shuffling my one iron back and forth from room to room!


Well, that's all the news for now...I must get Simba to the groomer - he's due there in less than an hour...I will be stitching on my 2014 Komen design model while I wait for him to get a bath and haircut. I'll be back soon with details on my new updated website...